Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Oh Murphy, I hate you

Last Thursday I finally got to take my CFII checkride. For the first time before a checkride I felt calm, I felt like I knew the material backwards and forwards and could handle the flying portion of the checkride. I attribute this to the fact that I had a week's notice and spent plenty of time that week studying. No last-minute rush to finish up the lesson plans or realizing you've missed studying a critical section of knowledge.

I even managed to eat breakfast that morning, another pre-check first for me. Normally I'm so nervous that I can't stomach anything. But this time I had some semblance of calm knowing that this would be my last FAA checkride for a very long time. I probably won't have another checkride that isn't for work, unless I choose to get my multi-engine instructor rating in the future, or go for seaplane ratings.

FAA checkrides involve an oral exam, consisting of knowledge/judgement-based questions, and a flight check. The FAA has what's called "pratical test standards," which give guidance to examiners on what to test candidates on. It's basically a checklist of certain items they need to hit on during your test. Some of this is accomplished in the oral and some of it on the flight, or a combination thereof.

I won't hit much on my checkride itself other than that the oral and flight both went very well, with the exception of what follows. But I did pass :)

Murphy's Law (as defined by UrbanDictionary.com):
1. If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.
2. The law that says anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

My flight school has two Cessna 172SPs, SA and PJ. I was scheduled to take SA on my checkride, but the manager of the flight school asked if I could take PJ. SA only had about 5 more hours before it needed a 100-hour inspection (required of all airplane for hire) and she wanted to try and extend that over the weekend. So I preflighted PJ, filed a flight plan and we got ready to go. PJ was very reluctant to start but we attributed this to the engine and the outside air being hot (fuel injected airplanes are very susceptible to vapor lock). We taxied to the runway to do our engine runup...and the left magneto was bad (there are 2 on each airplane, and they help generate the power for the spark plugs, more or less). After attempting to clear the mag several times (this is accomplished by leaning the mixture and running the engine at high RPMs to "burn off" whatever is choking the spark plugs) we brought the airplane back to the ramp.

So here we are, filing a revised flight plan and taking SA, the original airplane we were suppose to take. Whoops.

And in case that wasn't enough, now we got to argue with Tampa Approach.

Normally Tampa Approach is fantastic. But that day was a GREAT flying day, both for VFR and IFR. The ceiling was just under 3000 feet so you could get some decent actual instrument time in. We had filed IFR just in case and picked up our flight plan with Tampa. We requested and received a hold so that I could demonstrate holding, and then requested a full VOR approach into Lakeland Regional. And were denied due to traffic. So we canceled our IFR flight plan (now seeing that the clouds were high enough so that we could operate under VFR), contacted Lakeland and asked for the full VOR approach. Lakeland said they could accommodate us and instructed us to proceed direct to the LAL VOR. When we were about 4 1/2 miles north of the VOR Lakeland said "Oh SA, Tampa said they can take you now."

This struck me as odd, but ok, let's talk to Tampa. I check in with them and hear this: "SA turn 360 immediately you are entering Lakeland's airspace!"

Me: "Um...SA turning 360 but sir we were just talking to Lakeland, they cleared us for the full VOR approach and then told us we could talk to you."
ATC: "Oh. Standby. OK SA heading of 290 vectors for the full VOR approach."
.....Me: "290 on the heading, vectors for the full VOR approach."

After another 10 minutes of vectoring we're back to where we were, 4 miles from the VOR and cleared for the approach *facepalm* Sometimes I really don't understand ATC.

At one point the examiner said, "well you know what they say about Murphy's Law" and I just responded "I hate that guy."

But all in all I passed with flying colors, got complimented on my crosswind landing technique (apparently this is the FAA's new "topic of concern") and came back just in time to be there when one of Jim's students got back from his first solo (woohoo!!). Just with a little more excitement than I would've preferred!

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